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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Process of Writing a Term Paper in Grad School

I have four term papers (Hausarbeiten in German) due in March. Instead of just writing them now, however, I have decided to procrastinate by sharing my process for writing a term paper.

If getting my Master's has taught me nothing, at least it has made me a master in writing 18-page papers in exactly one week. I don't even flinch anymore when every single one of my professors assign a Hausarbeit each semester, usually requiring somewhere between 15 to 20 pages of well-researched thought. Heck, last semester I managed to whip out six Hausarbeiten on vastly different topics within in two months!

As I head into this phase of my third semester, I figured I would share my process of writing a Hausarbeit with all of you.

Phase 1: Learning is great!

Sure, writing a term paper is never fun, but it can be enjoyable when the topic interests you. I try my hardest to pick topics that I find interesting and where I think the knowledge gained will help me in the future.

Phase 2: I can do this.

It's still the early stages, but I am feeling determined. I am a smart person. Who says I can't crank this thing out in one week? Or even less!

Phase 3: Can I do this?

It's a few days later, and I am still reading books and articles relating to this horrible topic. When does it end? What is the point? Why am I doing this?!

Phase 4: So. Much. Information.

I now have a source list two pages long with over six pages of notes and ideas. Am I going too far?

Phase 5: Tippity, tappity
Okay, let's just start writing. Tippity tappity goes the keyboard, and before I know it, I've got a solid 50% of the paper written. Woohoo!

Phase 6: Tap... tap... tap...

Progress is slowing, and I still have several pages to go. I am now writing over 75% fewer words per day than before, and I am running low on ideas.

Phase 7: Just two more pages...

I'm in the home stretch now, and I will not sleep until I finish. Although I am starting to feel a bit delusional...

Phase 9: Add a comma, delete comma, add comma back in
Also known as proofreading, this is the stage where I am on my last nerve and want absolutely nothing to do with this topic anymore.

Phase 10: Good enough!

Has anyone ever finished writing a term paper and thought to themselves, "Wow, that is a great paper. I feel so accomplished."? I certainly haven't. After a lame attempt at editing my paper, I reach a point where all I can think is, "Yeah, that's good enough." Then I print it out, slap my signature on it, and throw it into my professor's mailbox.

And, of course, I then move on to the unofficial 11th phase:

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